Ohio one of top five states in US in reported cases
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MOUNT VERNON — During Knox Community Hospital’s inaugural Patient Safety Awareness Week activities held March 10-16, KCH staff combined their knowledge of U.S. states with an insidious topic – that is growing in cases each year – to gain more insight into the situation.
Working with Christina White, RN, an Emergency Department nurse, and Levi Motter, RN, KCH patient safety officer, about 100 hospital employees were asked to stick five pins in different colors on a Human Trafficking Map. These would be the five states they believed had the most cases of human trafficking — including both sex trafficking or labor trafficking, and sometimes a combination of the two.
Human trafficking is a growing problem nationwide, with 10,615 individual victims from 8,759 cases in 2017, the last year with complete reporting data. That represents a 13 percent jump in cases over the prior year, according to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline website, found at www.HumanTraffickingHotline.org, and The Polaris Project, https://polarisproject.org. A total of 2,144 unique survivors contacted the national hotline 5,263 times, where confidential tips can be reported. From 2007-17, a total of 40,987 cases have been reported.
Overall, Motter said, KCH staff members did a good job in recognizing the five states with the most reported cases of human trafficking: California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and New York, in that exact order. Most got the five states right. But only two of 100 employees had the exact order right, he added.
White and Motter both noted that many people would rightly guess the coastal, densely populated states of California, Florida and New York as being a beacon to criminal activity that involves human trafficking, and Texas as well. It’s the largest state in the continental United States and shares a long border with Mexico.
But why Ohio?
“It’s freeways, with easy access in and out of the state,” White said. Motter agreed, adding, “You can get across Ohio in about two and-a-half to three hours.”
White, who has experience in the KCH emergency department handling cases that involve human trafficking, noted that women are more involved in human trafficking than men — particularly, sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is more likely to involve non-U.S. residents, who have been falsely promised things like a Green Card (work visa) in exchange for their labor. Motter said those who run sex trafficking operations are experts at manipulating young women into servitude through illegal drug use or other means. And once trafficked, “It’s really hard to get out,” he said.
White said she recalls at least seven cases of human trafficking at KCH over the past two years. All of them involved allegations of sexual assault, with victims asked to complete a rape testing kit. If victims are under 18, the hospital is required to report those cases to law enforcement, being the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Mount Vernon Police Department. If the victims are 18 or older, they do not have to report their case to law enforcement, she added.
Some of the human trafficking victims have had other things to report upon arrival, such as being physically beaten or suffering physical trauma of some kind, or having substance abuse problems. There are U.S. residents who get caught up and tangled in sex trafficking just as there are non-U.S. residents who fall victim to sex trafficking rings, White said. There is help available in Ohio for human trafficking victims, run through the state Attorney General’s Office and its Victims of Crime compensation program. The program helps victims with medical bill costs, lost wages and other compensation. Locally, agencies such as New Directions would be able to help give trafficking victims a new start through assistance such as housing placements.
According to the Polaris Project, the three most common types of sex trafficking are escort services, residential (locations), and outdoor solicitations. Sex and labor trafficking’s top three types are illicit massage businesses, bars/strips clubs, and other illicit activities. Labor trafficking most involves domestic work, agriculture, and peddling or begging.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it’s happening right here in the United States. You can help,” states the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888. Those seeking information about human trafficking may also text “help” to 233733.
Motter said increasing KCH employee awareness of human trafficking, and how to respond, is just in its beginning stages. In addition to Motter as its patient safety director, KCH also has a safety director, Russell Maroni, who mainly works with employee safety. He has previously brought in a speaker on human trafficking and helped plan the related event for Patient Safety Awareness Week.
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